My doctor is very proactive. Almost any appointment with him, even for a minor ailment, will end up with a battery of tests.
A while ago, I had a little lung congestion that wouldn’t go away. He mentioned chest x-ray, blood test, some new pills and a pulmonary function test. He even talked about some procedure where they’d stick a tube into my lung to extract a sample of the mucus. That didn’t sound particularly exciting so I offered to hack some up. He did listen to my lung sounds and decided there was no indication that a coughing jag was necessary at the moment.
However, he did think the pulmonary function test was in order. It was accomplished at Sparrow Hospital. The registration desk was some distance from the pulmonary lab. As I walked toward the lab, I glanced at the encounter sheet. It listed my diagnosis as “SOB”. Now, I know I’ve caused a lot of trouble at the doctors office—but SOB? I was pretty sure this warning would put the technician on full alert…maybe even start him off in a bad mood.
Such was not the case. “SOB” indicated shortness of breath and the lab tech, Harry, was a jovial guy from the onset. He greeted me with “Welcome to Star Ship Sparrow”. He was right. The room was a myriad of computers, control panels, gas tanks, and tubes looping everywhere. And most prominent; an escape pod, into which he seated me. He recited a steady stream of pre-launch instructions as he adjusted all the gizmos in the pod.
I would breathe normal, then take in a huge, deep breath. He would record some data and then command me to exhale quickly and completely. I was to exhale until my lungs were fully exhausted and he would record that measurement also. I would be able to monitor the amount of air flow on the module’s display screen. At least I would be able to watch if I didn’t pass out because all the oxygen had been forced out of my lungs.
Of course, even if I did manage to stay conscious long enough to see the gauge hit zero flow, I was not to inhale until he commanded me to do so. When I inquired as to the logic of me no longer able to focus on the meter yet hear him say “Inhale”, he did agree to abort the mission should that occur.
WOW, that was definitely encouraging. However, when he said, “If you survive the first round of inhale-exhalie, we would do it three more times. I acknowledged that I understood.
He immediately put a clothes pin on my nose, inserted a mouthpiece attached to a tube dangling from the ceiling and exited the pod. He sat down at mission control and asked; “Are you ready to launch?” Considering the clamp on my nose and the snorkel lodged securely in my jaws, he wouldn’t have known if I said yes or no.
“Okay, then, breath normal so I can get a base line.”
Um, excuse me…breath normal? What’s normal about a plugged nose and scuba gear in my mouth. Not to mention, a conscious effort to breath normal requires knowledge of what an unconscious normal rate should be. Fortunately, my thoughts on this matter made me forget about breathing. He must have gotten the base line…”Deep breath and hoooold…” came the voice from Command Central, followed closely with “Exhale…more…more…almost…a little more…good, inhale and breathe normal”
At this point my inhale was more like a gasp. My eyes were bulged out and my face tingled from lack of oxygen. I honestly felt like I was in thin air after blasting off from Space Ship Sparrow. I wasn’t sure what was hissing inside the pod, but I hoped it wasn’t a leak in my lungs. I contemplated removing the nose clamp. Too late, round two was beginning; “Breathe normal please…deep breath…”
I gotta tell you, after three more cycles of this and four other tests with slight modifications, I was exhausted. Breathing normal would be sometime tomorrow.